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Thursday 8 December 2016

Anxious O'Neill waits for word on Ward

Stephen Ward. Pic: PA
Stephen Ward. Pic: PA

Martin O'Neill will learn in the next 24 hours if he can count on left back Stephen Ward (left) for the World Cup qualifier in Vienna in just 12 days' time.

The Burnley defender, who has started in the last five competitive international games, was replaced in the first half of Saturday's 0-0 draw with Manchester United because of a hamstring injury.

Ward had a scan at his club yesterday and O'Neill is anxiously awaiting the medical update from the Clarets.

If he is forced to miss the Austria game, O'Neill will be faced with a major headache over who to play at left-back, as moving Robbie Brady to defensive duties for the first time this campaign would force him to reshape his midfield, with James McCarthy also struggling for fitness in time for the Vienna game.

O'Neill will consider Cyrus Christie at left-back while Preston's Greg Cunningham is also on standby.

Strikers Shane Long and Daryl Murphy are also struggling, with Newcastle United boss Rafa Bentitez admitting that Murphy could be two weeks away from full fitness.

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